PuppetYear #5 – Shadow Puppets

This is a quick run down of the behind-the-scenes making aspect of the puppet elements of new collaborative project Anytime The Wind Can Change presented by The New Shadow Cabinet.

The New Shadow Cabinet is Alex Podger, Alex Gomar, Caitlin Strongarm, Benjamin Yellowitz & Siân Herbert.

Project information can be found HERE

Type: Shadow Puppets
Location: Hatfield, United Kingdom
Materials: Card, bamboo skewers, tape, PVA, split pins, umbrella spines
Tools: Cutting mat, Stanley knife
Time: 50 hours minimum
Date/s: 27/08/20 – 25/09/20

I was working from a script for this project, and had quit a number of puppets to create, so I will give a quick overview of a few of the important ones but not each individually.

The project centres two giants as the protagonists in a story spanning towns across the sea. It was really important to get the look of these characters right, so I began by workshopping (with the help of co-collaborators) different styles for the bodies and faces. I painted silhouettes in watercolour until I was happy with a general outline.

I traced these onto thinner green card to find the right placement for joints, and to keep shopping around with hairstyles and body shape. When the designs were finalized I transferred them onto thicker card and cut them out with a craft knife.

I first added rigid sticks to the bodies to help with stability, but later the team opted to swap them out for umbrella spines for flexibility and length.

Several other puppets were made to fill out the story. Special attention paid to the negative space, or ‘cut-outs’ in the puppet. this detail is fiddly but is what gives dimension to the puppetry when it is projected in shadow.

Towns also had to be created to tell the story. These, originally cut from card and assembled on drawer runners on either side of the bespoke shadow screen, have since been updated to a more durable material for tour-ability. Use of a dremel was employed to cut these towns.

All in all, upwards of 50 individual puppets and scenery have been created for this project.